The has announced a $10 million gift from co-founder David M. Rubenstein to restore former slave quarters at Jefferson's Monticello plantation.
The gift, one of the largest ever to the estate, will be used to rebuild at least two log buildings on Mulberry Row, where slaves lived and worked, and restore the plantation's original road scheme. The project will be based on a 1796 drawing by the third president that described the material and dimensions of the structures along Mulberry Row, including a structure described as being among "servants' houses of wood, with wooden chimneys and earth floors," the reports. The twelve-by-fourteen-foot dwelling is thought to have housed members of the extended family of Sally Hemings, whose six children are believed by many to have been fathered by Jefferson. The recreated house may also highlight the life of Hemings' younger brother, John Hemings, a highly skilled joiner and cabinetmaker. "By bringing back the place, we bring back the people, and we're able to put a face on slavery," senior curator Susan Stein told the AP. "It's actually the lives of people."
The gift also will support the restoration of the second and third floors of the main house and the replacement of aging infrastructure. Only one of the rooms on the upper floors, which were recently opened to public tours, has been fully restored.
Rubenstein, who gave in February to the Mount Vernon Library and in 2012 to fund repairs to the earthquake-damaged Washington Monument, told the AP he became a student of Jefferson after purchasing several copies of the Declaration of Independence and came to admire the man who wrote that "all men are created equal."
"I think it's important to tell people the good and the bad of American history, not only the things that we might like to hear," he added. "And the bad of it is that as great as Jefferson was, nobody can deny that he was a slave owner. I think if Jefferson were around today, he would say, 'I would like to see Monticello restored as it was.'"